NPR Music At SXSW 2015: Thursday
Some days at South by Southwest, everything goes right. You see the bands you want to see, every one of them puts on an amazing show and the heavens open and angels give you shoulder rubs. NPR Music's Robin Hilton had a day like that on Thursday, with epiphany after epiphany. Things went well on Day 3 for the rest of NPR Music's team in Austin, too. On this page you can see all of our recommendations, photos from all over town and listen to our nightly All Songs Considered podcast, featuring another South X Lullaby, this one by Laura Berhenn of The Mynabirds, who plays an unreleased song that will appear on the band's third album, out this summer (scroll down to the bottom of this page to see video of that performance).
Here are some of the best things we heard on Thursday.
Day 3 Picks
It's hard to overstate how heart-stopping it is to see these four guys from Dublin play live, but I'll say they make it sound like the whole world is going to literally explode in a massive, interstellar ball of fire. It's the end of everything and they're both indifferent and full of rage. --Robin Hilton
The best thing I heard all day was Tanya Tagaq, a Canadian Inuit throat singer. She put on the most sensual, other-worldly show I've ever witnessed. --Bob Boilen
How could I write about anything but Tanya Tagaq, the stunning Inuit throat singer, activist, and Polaris Prize winner? Her performance incorporates every cell of her body and her voice is unlike anything I've ever heard — pleading and powerful, angry and vulnerable, light and deepest dark, often at the same time. It takes a lot to stand out at SXSW, but it's safe to say not a single person in Austin tonight is doing what Tanya is doing. --Katie Presley (contributor)
Even when the crowd on Sixth Street thickens into a moving mass of flesh and all the cool folks huddle at free-drink day parties featuring only the hottest showcasing artists, the deepest moments at SXSW might still take place in nearly empty rooms. That happened today when the Texas-raised troubadour Ryan Culwell played an afternoon set at a bland bar downtown. Alone with his guitar, facing blank space, Culwell could have played a perfunctory 30 minutes. Instead he poured serious soul into his Panhandle tales of dry earth, dusty marriages and unpretty resilience, telling rich stories to introduce each song and nailing the wild high notes of his choruses. He made art of his craft, never scrimping on the details. His songs themselves wring grace from plain and often dark details, expressing the realities of class and region in ways that many other writers barely touch. Here was a working man, a working musician, delivering his best. It was a star turn, no matter how many people witnessed it. --Ann Powers
Beginning last night, I caught a string of extraordinary performances by self-possessed 18- to 20-year-olds, Shamir, Ibeyi and SOAK among them. Are we building better young people nowadays? The grandest highlight among those (which is saying something) was Little Simz, a gifted London rapper who can barely slow down enough to spit out everything she has to say. Her words are equally thoughtful and playful — a tough and important mixture to pull off. --Stephen Thompson
Because they are an unstoppable train of life-affirming shredding. --Adam Kissick (photographer)
South X Lullaby: The Mynabirds
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